World War II is getting old. We've gotten so many WWII games in the past couple years that we're in the middle of what is generally considered a glut. If you want your WWII game to stand out and do gangbusters, you have to come with something stellar. Mediocre just won't cut it nowadays. Commandos: Strike Force is the latest in the World War II genre. Is it the greatest? Not quite.
Some of you out there may remember the Commandos series on PC. It was a third-person action-adventure title that featured multiple playable classes on a single team. You had to coordinate and be extremely careful to complete missions. Commandos: Strike Force retains some of that, in that you get a sniper, a Green Beret, and a spy. They're all over-the-top and more than a little cheesy, but it fits the tone of the game.
One problem: the characters just aren't very engrossing. The Green Beret is the very definition of your generic war hero, the sniper feels strikingly limited, and the stealthy spy? Not all that stealthy. The stealth sequences tend to consist of putting on a uniform and hoping that no one uncovers your disguise. The sniper also has some up-close and personal stealth sequences, aided and abetted by his ability to throw knives that kill on contact. These knives work 100% of the time, even if you're staring down half a dozen enemies from two inches away. If you can throw them, you can kill the bad guys.
Even the graphics are just middling. A lot of games will have some aspect of its graphics that stands out as being particularly great, be it animation, texturing, or physics. Commandos has nothing. The characters are detailed just enough for you to be able to differentiate between your characters and the ones you're supposed to be shooting. The landscapes are generic trees and ground textures. The animation is just blah, and sometimes the tweening between animations doesn't look right, giving the impression that soldiers pop from position to position.
The level design isn't particularly inspired, either. You're going to hit the usual farmhouses, farms, and strangely abandoned areas that should be teeming with life, or at least civilians. You'll be ambushed, you'll do a bit of ambushing, and it will all feel very familiar and generic. Early in the game, you'll come across a wide field populated by fences, a couple barrels, and hordes of enemies. The enemies will come at you in waves from a number of spawn points. Get used to it-- you'll be doing that quite a bit.
Some levels will switch it up on you. You'll have to swap back and forth between a number of the characters in order to accomplish your objectives. The ones you aren't controlling mill about and might kill a bad guy or two, but that's about it. You're leading the team, but you never really feel like you're in control of your team. You aren't a cohesive Strike Force, you're more of a group of guys who watch the guy you're currently controlling do all the work.
If there's one high point, it's the voices. The sniper is suitably British and witty, and the other characters are also pretty appealing. They bring a decent level of interest to the game, but it's really not worth it to hear them talk or tell you what to do next. You can only sit through the same canned assassination animation so many times before you get tired of it.
Commandos: Strike Force just feels like a game of half measures. The tree textures are straight out of 1999, the one-liners are repeated way too often, and the fighting just feels almost fun, rather than fun. Here's a trick: try to throw a knife when you're standing near a corner. Combine all this with spotty, prescient AI, and just an overall sense of "I've done all this before" and you end up with a just barely average game.